Features to Look For In A Dive Computer

divecomputersIn the early days, dive computer could only offer basic decompression calculations based  on your dive duration and depths to ensure that you have a safe dive .

However, as technology  evolved over the years, so has dive computer. Today, they are packed full of features to make your diving easier, safer, and overall more fun.

However with all the new features available, choosing a modern dive computer can be bewildering.

On this page we are going to look at some of the more import feature you should look for in a dive computer.

( If you would like more information about buying a new computer you can read my Ultimate Dive Computer Buying Guide)


One of the first feature of the dive computer you should consider is its display. This is where you will access all the information you will need to dive safe. The ability to read the the display easily and accurately is vital to your safety.

When choosing a display you might want to consider the type, the size of lettering, and whether or not it has back lighting.

Lets look at these in more detail below.

Display Type

At the moment there are basically three different methods that dive computer uses to display your credical dive information on the serren, these are  Dot Matrix, OLED, and LCD.

Dot Matrix

This is the most common display used by dive computers. Dot Matrix can either be full dot matrix, which uses smaller dots to make up number and character more clearly, and then there are the types that uses segments of line for characters, similar to those that you would find on a calculator.

Some dive computer will use a combination of both to display information on the computer screen.

The lettering are normally black on a gray background, because they do not light up themselves, they need back-lighting (More on this below) in order to see them at night or low  visibility conditions.


With OLED the digits themselves are light up to give you a brighter clearer view of whats going on on your dive computer.

The digits can also be light in different colors so you can easily distinguished between the information that is being displayed.

Because the digits themselves are lit up there is no need for back lighting, which makes these computer very easy to view in low light, low visibility dive conditions.

(Dive computer which uses this display is the Atomic Cobalt Dive Computer)

Full Color LCD

This display is similar to that of what you would find on your your flat screen TV, tablet, or  smart phone. It uses the light molding properties of crystals to display, clear, Christoper, images and colder on your dive computer screen.

Because the crystals themselves does not emit light directly they need to be back-lit in order to view the information on the screen.

(Computers that uses  Full Color LCD Screen is the Mares Icon HD)

Display Size

The size of the display is also very important, especially if you’re going to be diving in very low visibility or if your eye sight is not what it used to be. It’s not practical to buy a watch-size dive computer if your eyesight is not what it used to be.


Back-Lighting on your dive computer allows you to read the display in low visibility or night without using your flashlight.

Today, even the most basic dive computer comes with this feature because ti is something that many divers will not go without.


Pretty much all dive computer allow you to review your dive history. However, the amount of data and dive that  are logged generally depends on the model.

Older  dive computer models would only show you data from your most recent dive. Now, the average computer can give you information on your last 10-15 dives,  with more expensive dive computer storing an average to 50 or more logged dives.

When choosing your dive computer it is very important that you pick one that will record enough dives.

If you only dive a few time per year  you will not need as much memory where dive a couple times per week.


Having a dive computer with alarms is very useful, especially if you’re new to scuba diving, because  they keep you safe by alerting you when important dive limits are approached.

These can be both visual and audible alarms to warn you if you are ascending too fast, or approaching your no decompression limit, etc.

It is  important to read your dive computer manual to understand what each alarm means.


Many computer today also come equipped with user changeable batteries. This is a very important feature to have especially if your computer batteries die on a dive trip. It only take a couple minutes to swap out batteries, instead of having to send it in to the service department, saving you a lot of money on maintenance costs.

It is good to keep in mind that, only a few of them have watertight battery chamber which means that if it is not seal properly water can get in and ruin the entire dive computer.

Because of this many diver still take their computer to service center to have the battery changed.

Compass and Navigation

Underwater your field of vision is not has good as it is on land,  ans as a diver you need to know where you’re heading and how to get back to the shore, or your boat.  This is the reason why a compass is a vital part of your scuba diving gear.

Compass are generally mounted  in your dive computer console or can they can be worn on your wrist.  However, in recent years dive computer can now supplement and even replace these old fashion compasses with digital ones.

They can digitally display your heading accurately, and don’t need to be completely level to work properly

Some to the higher end computer goes as far as integrating Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which  uses satellites to pin point exactly where you are and where you have been. This feature is great for diver doing search and recovery, fishing or crabbing, or treasure hunting.


Dive computer can be activate two ways, either manually by the diver or with water.

Many dive computer would require you to press a button before beginning your dive. However, many divers forget to activate their dive computer an fail to capture their dive details.

To solve this problem dive manufacturers now makes dive computer that activates as soon as you enter the water. If you feel that you might forget to activate you computer before diving, then this feature is a must. However, dive computer with this feature are a little bit pricier.

PC Compatible

Many of the new dive computers now allow you to download all your dive detail to you PC (Personal Computer). While your dive computer might only allow you store 10 or so dives, by downloading them to your computer you can actually store countless amount of dive data.

But, downloading your dive information to your PC normally require that you by software and cable separately (some dive computer packages comes with this included).

Depending on the software it can convert all your dive info into graphs to show you depths during the dives, and the time spent at each depth.

They can also chart  more  detailed information like missed decompression stops and rapid assents, how good your are at air consumption (Air Integration Needed),  and your predicted nitrogen saturation level.

What to Do Next?

The above are some of the most important feature  I believe you would want to look for in a new dive computer.  A good dive computer does not necessary have to have all these features the one you choose will depend mostly on your budget and personal preference. It is always good to read dive computer reviews to find out all it features and capabilities.

Now that you know what features to look or when buying, your new dive computer you my dive computer comparison chart to quick compare the features of most of the best dive computer on the market today.